Service Academy Day offers teens, parents insight into application process
ST. CHARLES – Like others at St. Charles East High School on Saturday morning, Bob and Christy Koonce of Campton Hills circled the Little Theater to talk with representatives from the nation's five service academies.
As the daughter of a retired navy commander, Christy Koonce is no stranger to the military. Even so, the 15-year-old St. Charles North sophomore – who is "really interested" in attending the U.S. Naval Academy – said Service Academy Day was helpful.
Hosted by U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, and Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, the event gave students and their families a chance to learn about the academies and what it takes to get accepted to one.
"We're all looking for the same kid," Naval Academy representative Bob Falardeau said.
He described ideal applicants as well-rounded "difference makers" with character and leadership.
Ted Bronson of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy agreed about the latter quality.
"Leadership is key here," he said. "We produce leaders."
As congressmen, Hultgren and Roskam can nominate a limited number of students for admission to the academies. This year, applications are due to their offices by Oct. 30.
Noting that parents sometimes push their children toward service academies, Carol Berger of Hultgren's office encouraged the teens to apply only if that's what they want.
"We want those students who really want to go to the academy," she said.
Falardeau advised the teens to be aggressive and committed when seeking a spot.
"If you don't believe in yourself, who is supposed to?" he asked. "Go after this with everything you've got."
Matt Lee, a 2011 high school graduate who continued his education at the Naval Academy, acknowledged that getting in an academy is tough, but it can lead to an indescribable experience.
He said he encountered teachers willing to help students on weekends, made bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime and had an incredible support network.
"They will not let you fail," he said.